One to watch: Antwan Applewhite

The stars are aligned for Antwan Applewhite. He is fighting to be one of nine linebackers on a team with just seven veterans at the position. The man in front of him, Carlos Polk, is arguably the most injury prone player in the NFL. Plus, he has a stellar role model helping him make the leap to the pro level. On a team brimming with talent, he has a legitimate chance to steal a roster spot.

Antwan Applewhite (6 foot 3, 250 lbs.) slipped through the cracks on draft day because he is a tweener. He lacks the bulk to play defensive end and the agility to play linebacker. What he does possess is a unique blend of quickness and athleticism, making him ideally suited to play outside linebacker in Ted Cottrell's 3-4 scheme.

He also has two terrific coaches helping him harness that raw talent. John Pagano is helping Applewhite learn to play without his hand on the ground, while Ron Rivera is helping him adapt to playing in space.

"Coach Rivera is a great coach who really knows a lot," Applewhite said. "He explains things the way you need to hear them. He's helping me refine my footwork and understand what I'm doing."

Applewhite also has a terrific role model who knows what it takes to go from being an undrafted free agent to a Pro Bowler. Kassim Osgood played his college ball at San Diego State (as did Applewhite) and is helping the rookie make a smooth transition to the big leagues.

"It is great having Kassim here because of our SDSU connection," Applewhite said. "He can give me some pointers, especially on special teams."

Special teams play will be an important factor when it comes time to decide Applewhite's fate. The man he is trying to oust, Carlos Polk, is a two-time Special Teams Player of the Year. Applewhite will have to at least approximate Polk's productivity in kick coverage before the team considers cutting ties with the veteran.

If Applewhite can dominate on special teams, he has a shot to make the roster. His pass-rushing skills are vastly superior to Polk's, which is crucial at the outside linebacker position.

Even if Applewhite does win a roster spot, he will not be satisfied merely sitting on the end of the bench. He aims to make an impact and is confident in his ability to do so.

"I know I can contribute to the team," he said. "The Chargers have a great chance to go to the Super Bowl and I want to be a part of that."

As an undrafted free agent, the odds are stacked against him. However, on a team that had more than a dozen former undrafted free agents play significant roles last season, Applewhite will certainly be a player to watch.

Lightning Quick: To read Applewhite's exclusive interview with SDBoltReport.com, click here.


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